In Russia, work is under way on recreating the truthful and objective stories First World War. An important direction of this complex multilateral activity was the creation under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation a unique six-volume scientific work, which will be prepared as far as possible from the current situation. We asked to tell about the peculiarities of the work on this fundamental edition of the scientific supervisor of labor, the actual state adviser of the Russian Federation I class, major general of the reserve, doctor of historical and legal sciences, professor V.A. Zolotarev.
- In Soviet historiography, Russia's participation in the First World War was characterized as unnecessary, not meeting its interests. This view is common now. They say that the Russian Empire could and should have stayed aside from the armed conflict for as long as possible and stubbornly extracted political and economic benefits from it (as the USA did). Was such a turn of events possible?
- At the beginning of the twentieth century, Russia was the largest European power, and no war in Europe could not bypass it, regardless of the motives and policies of individual states. Perhaps, up to a certain point, she could have avoided participating in repelling German aggression, but the consequences of this would surely be even worse. In 1914, German troops approached the walls of Paris and were stopped by a Russian offensive in East Prussia. The aggressors were in a position of war on two fronts. And this status quo was maintained until late autumn of 1917. That is, Russia's participation in the war was beneficial to its allies in the Entente. But Russia also benefited from an alliance with France and Great Britain: the division of German troops into two theaters, the supply of military materials, etc. On the contrary, Russia's non-participation in the 1914 war could lead to the implementation of the Schlieffen Plan: the defeat of France and British troops, and then the transfer of hostilities against Russia. After all, the territorial claims of Germany and Austria-Hungary to our country are well known.
- What values did Russia defend in that war? What benefits (besides the obvious geopolitical) could derive from the victory in it? Have any new documents appeared in the scientific circulation on this topic?
- According to foreign mass media, in particular, the BBC, “from Catherine II to Alexander II, St. Petersburg tried not to quarrel with anyone and not to get too close, and if possible, not to allow others to quarrel and change the balance forces The cornerstone of its foreign policy was the preservation of the European status quo. Russia fought with Turkey and Persia, annexed the Caucasus and the Far East, but in Europe it steadily sought to prevent the reshaping of borders and regime change. In general, more than a century, Russia, thanks to its enormous size and power, has been a very effective stabilizer and peacemaker. ” Since the time of Peter the Great, our country fought with the Ottoman Empire for access to the Mediterranean Sea, which promised colossal benefits for Russian exports. However, always behind the ports of Ports rose London and Paris, and from the end of the XIX century. - Berlin and Vienna. Russia wanted to weaken the influence of Austria-Hungary on Turkey. Here, too, an important role was played by helping co-religionists - Armenians, who since the end of the 19th century have been subjected to increasing oppression, and in some cases genocide.
Russia in World War I also defended the idea of Slavic unity and the triumph of Orthodoxy in Constantinople.
- Recently, the hypothesis that some kind of secret “world government” (or its prototype) was originally planned to drag Russia into the hardest war, in order to exhaust the forces of the monarchy, provoke two revolutions, and then destroy and dismember her and take possession of the richest resources.
- Recently, in spite of well-studied (but extremely tendentiously) studied historical facts and a large number of documentary evidence on the causes of world wars, conspiracy versions are increasingly appearing in the media. That one author speaks of the 1914 year as the revenge of the English masons to their fellow masons, who broke away from them in 1871. Someone else blames a transatlantic financial structure that emerged in 1913 in the intentional pull of Russia into the 1914 – 1918 war. Anyway, there is no documentary evidence in favor of these versions, and their authors appeal to unverified information, and sometimes just rumors. With the understandable striving of these authors for sensationalism and the maintenance of print runs, such arguments are very far from historical science. New 6-volume fundamental scientific work should avoid this. I guess I answered your question.
- How do you assess the level of military-political, strategic and operational management of the actions of the fronts and armies by the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief?
- The question of the compliance of the command level with the threats that the enemy has created is very complicated. Yes, the high command (and not only Russia) made mistakes. Sometimes the price of these mistakes was very high (as in the East Prussian operation 1914). Yes, somewhere there was a weak interaction between the commanders of various armies. Yes, the country as a whole (at the level of military production and supply of troops with ammunition) was not ready for a large-scale long-term positional war. However, it should be noted that not a single member country that entered World War I in 1914 did not count on a long-term struggle with such dire consequences.
The scope of the armed struggle during the First World War demanded changes in the methods of strategic leadership. Ensuring its unity politically, economically and militarily was of particular importance. This was to find its concrete embodiment in the structure and methods of work of the supreme bodies of strategic management. In Russia, the Supreme Commander’s Headquarters was such a body. The experience of the war as a whole has confirmed the expediency of creating the Headquarters. The main disadvantage was the complete separation of the theater of military operations from the rest of the country, the latter was governed by other departments. Little has changed with the assumption of duties of the Supreme Commander by Nicholas II.
Regarding personalities: the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, despite the first setbacks (namely, defeat in East Prussia), in the opinion of contemporaries and subsequent researchers of the First World War, more closely corresponded to the post of Supreme Commander, which manifested itself on the Caucasian front. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich “behind the eyes” was called “crafty”, remembering that he never reported to the Emperor Nikolai the full extent of his designs and actions. Apparently, he believed that the post of commander-in-chief of the Caucasian Front has some freedom of action. Chief of Staff N.N. Yanushkevich went along with the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich to the Caucasus, but remained there in the shadow of Nikolai Nikolayevich. After the appointment of Nicholas II as supreme commander, many authors believe that M.V. Alekseev.
- Which of the commanders of the Russian fronts and armies could you single out first? Isn't the opinion about the general low level of Russian top officers erroneous and ideologically introduced?
- The introduced system of operational-strategic management of the Stavka-front-army was the most effective for conducting combat operations in several strategic areas. However, among the commanders of the fronts of the Russian army, unfortunately, there were no commanders who fully corresponded to the changed nature of the war. Nee N.V. Ruzsky, N.I. Ivanov, nor Ya.G. Zhilinsky, nor A.A. Brusilov (commanding the South-Western Front at the end of 1916 - the beginning of 1917) could not rise to a higher level of command. As A.A. Kersnovsky: “The strategic anarchy generated by the establishment of ridiculous“ fronts ”with their specific princes, commanders-in-chief, would not have led to good even if there were gifted commanders at the head of these senseless organisms ...“ The Fronts headed by the Manchu level and even below the Manchu level… Exceptionally, the leaders too, too, would suffer from the poorly manchurian leaders ... Exceptionally, the poorly manchurian leaders ... Exceptionally, the poorly Manchu leaders, and only the poorly Manchu leaders, exclusively the poor, but the Manchurians, and even below the Manchurian level the commanders-in-chief of the fronts paralyzed the work of the commanders of the armies. "
In general, the officer corps was fairly well prepared with the exception of the highest level. On the eve of the First World War, the Higher Attestation Commission for the Ministry of War proposed to fire a number of top military leaders of the Russian army, to which Nicholas II, in front of most of the names from the list, wrote: “Yes, but they are good people. Leave!
It is also worth noting the very low level of senior commanders in the armies of the main participating countries (P. Hindenburg, H. Moltke, Jr., J. French). An important factor here, apparently, were court intrigues and personal affections of heads of state.
At the same time, it is impossible not to note A.A.A. Brusilov (having brilliantly carried out the offensive, being the commander of the front, in 1917, he, alas, lost control of the troops), N.N. Yudenich, A.V. Kolchak, A.I. Denikin, L.G. Kornilov. In general, the Russian army commanders, in our opinion, corresponded to the realities of the First World War. Another problem is the material support of the troops. It also had an underdeveloped transport infrastructure (the length of the Russian front was 1600 km, and the French front was 700-900 km), and the weak development of the defense industry, with the result that Russia largely depended on the supply of ammunition by our allies. But these deliveries (having gone through a number of the hardest approvals) did not always arrive on time at the front due to the remoteness of the ports (first of all, Arkhangelsk) from the theater of operations and the weak throughput capacity of the Russian railways.
- Will your work assess the relationship within the military-political alliances, and above all - in the Entente bloc? Do you share the opinion that our allies - Britain and France - pursued a dual policy towards Russia, pursuing their own selfish interests, being ready to fight the Austro-German bloc “until the last Russian soldier”?
- Issues of intra-blocking interaction, as shown by subsequent wars of the twentieth century, are very important. In our work, we will try to give a balanced assessment of the goals of our allies in relation to post-war Russia and its interests, and also for the first time in our national historiography, we will evaluate the forms, methods and effectiveness of the interaction of allies not only in the Entente, but also in the Triple Alliance. Also will be subjected to a critical analysis of the desire of London and Paris to fulfill their geopolitical obligations to our country. The latter can be judged by the recently declassified foreign policy correspondence of London and Paris, as well as an analysis of the activities of their residents in Russia. In this regard, we plan to attract foreign historians who will rely on archival materials in their countries. Comparison of data from foreign and domestic archives, I believe, will help us come to the truth.
- Do you have fears that an honest and detailed story about the treacherous position of the Bolsheviks and their allies, perhaps, will repel quite a wide circle of the public from your work, still committed to leftist ideas, will provoke a wave of criticism on their part?
- I would like to begin my answer with a quote from a note from the former Interior Minister P.N. Durnovo to Nikolay II of February 1914: “Russia, of course, is widely presented as a particularly fertile ground for social upheavals ... A Russian commoner, a peasant and a worker are not equally looking for political rights, which are both unnecessary and incomprehensible. The peasant dreams of giving his alien land freely, the worker - of transferring to him all the capital and profits of the manufacturer, and beyond this their desires do not go. And it is only to throw these slogans widely into the population, if only the government authorities irrevocably allow agitation in this direction - Russia will undoubtedly be plunged into anarchy, which it experienced during the memorable period of 1905 — 1906 turmoil ... such agitation. As already noted, this war is fraught with great difficulties for us and cannot be a triumphal march to Berlin. Inevitable and military setbacks, hopefully partial ones, one or the other shortcomings in our supplies will also be inevitable. With the exceptional nervousness of our society, these circumstances will be given exaggerated importance, and with the opposition of this society, everything will be put in the guilt of the government. ”
As we see, some representatives of the royal power were aware of future problems. The main difficulty was, as for modern Ukraine, in the determination of the authorities to suppress this infection. Objectively speaking, the fermentation on the front was caused not only by the activities of the left parties. If we consider the problem chronologically, then responsibility for the collapse of the state and the army should not be removed from the centrist parties (first of all, the Cadets). It was their criticism of the belligerent state in the rear and became a "knife in the back." In my opinion, the main “click to the revolution” was the bright anti-government speech of P.N. Milyukova 1 (14 November) 1916 g. "Stupidity or treason," based on an article in a German newspaper. I would like to emphasize that this was not the case in any other warring country. All deputies (be it Germany, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain or France) united around the supreme power, rather than weave intrigues and did not arouse the people against power. In any case, one cannot but agree with the opinions of contemporaries who wrote about the liberals of that time: “These elements themselves are so weak, so scattered, and we must speak directly, so mediocre that their triumph would be as short as it is fragile. The strongest and most active of them is the Cadet Party, leading the rest of them; but if you look at it not in the sense of written programs, but in the sense of the everyday features of its very existence and the consistent course of its occurrence, then you will have to admit that this party is strong only by its weakness. ”
So criticism has to be expected from two sides. One can only hope that these judgments will be in the nature of scientific discussion and constructive criticism.
- Do you intend to tell about all the operations of the Great War, including the actions of the allies, or only about the most significant ones? Operations will be highlighted in chronological order or on some other principle, for example, by country?
- During the 1568 days, fierce battles took place on the fronts of the First World War. Most of them had strategic goals and were carried out on a very large scale. It is impossible not to show them, especially considering that this war is undeservedly forgotten in our country. The basic principle will be chronological. Naturally, due attention will be paid to the fighting on the French and Russian fronts, on other continents and on the seas.
- What specific lessons can you draw from the experience of that war and preparation for it today? Do you find it helpful at all to talk about these lessons in the pages of your work?
-This war was not accidentally named the First World War. Already the Russian-Japanese war showed that the conflicting interests of the great powers can often go against their formal allied obligations. Therefore, any armed clash of one of them threatens to escalate into a "war of all against all." Today, as in the early twentieth century, there is a threat that local armed conflicts will escalate into a global world war. From this point of view, the study of the experience of the First World War is priceless.
- What scientific teams of our country cooperate with your editors?
- A wide circle of historians from the Russian Academy of Sciences (institutes of universal and Russian history, Slavic studies), representatives of military educational research centers (Research Institute of Military History of the Military Academy of the General Staff and the Joint Academy), and representatives of the Moscow and St. Petersburg universities, the Volga State Social-Humanitarian Academy and a number of "security agencies" (FSB, SVR, Ministry of Emergency Situations).
- Do you attract foreign partners to work, and if so, to whom?
- Work on attracting foreign scientists to participate in our work is underway. So far, the relevant negotiations are underway with our colleagues from Serbia.
- Who finances the building?
- Financing of the project is conducted in the established order by decision of the Minister of Defense of Russia.
- When do you plan to complete the publication of all six volumes and when to wait for the first volume to come out of print?
- It is planned to publish the first volume in the summer of 2014 - on the 100 anniversary of the beginning of the Great War, and the last, the sixth, at the end of 2017. At the same time, I would like to once again stipulate the position of the team of authors: it was the agreement in the Compiegne forest that ended the bloodshed, while the Versailles peace of 1919 laid down many contradictions that resulted in World War II. Although, of course, in the final volume of work all international agreements (both peace treaties and League of Nations Statute) of 1917 - 1919 will be considered.